Despite the on-again, off-again rain, the weekend turned out to be very interesting with some exciting birds and interesting bird behaviour.
Windy Woppa Reserve 2006
Our morning tea stop at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens produced an argumentative group of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a nice collection of bromeliads. It wasn't long before we arrived at Windy Woopa Reserve at Hawks Nest. The rain kept us in the bus but that didn't stop us from birdwatching. Right in front of us only metres away were both Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers using their long red bills to chisel away at the oysters and limpets. You couldn't have asked for better views.
Suddenly an Osprey scooted past carrying a large fish in its talons. The fish was being carried head first so its streamlined body, so useful in the water, was not hindering the bird's flight. It was straight of a David Attenborough documentary. The bird landed in a tall dead tree and, with the telescope set up inside the bus, we watched it eat until a White-bellied Sea-Eagle dived on the Osprey. After a short chase the eagle took the remains of the fish away to its own tree.
In addition to plenty of cormorants and pelicans on the water, the banksias at Windy Woopa also produced both wattlebirds, a Lewin's Honeyeater, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, a Brown and a Striped Honeyeater.
Rajah Shelduck by Andrew Patrick
After lunch we headed north to Myall Lakes National Park where one group walked across the sand dunes while the other group looked for some bush birds. The sand dune group saw an Eastern Reef Egret on the rocks, two Red-capped Plovers scurrying across the beach and Australasian Gannets plunging headlong into the surf.
The morning walk on day two produced some fast flying White-headed Pigeons, a musical Pied Butcherbird, a Whistling Kite, lots of frogs and, feeding in a horse paddock, three types of pigeons - Spotted Turtle-Doves, Crested Pigeons and Bar-shouldered Doves.
Back to the Myall Lakes National Park and on the grass beside the road we spotted a beautiful Pheasant Coucal which obligingly sat still on the ground and in a tree giving us lengthy and excellent views. At Mungo Brush the water was a bit stinky but there were dozens of Black Swans, some with cygnets, as well as teal, cormorants and pelicans. In the rainforest we found some Large-billed Scrubwrens and Brown Gerygones looking for insects in the palms and we glimpsed a Whipbird. The Eastern Yellow Robins were plentiful. They dashed about and pulled large worms out of the ground.
Another walk at Boomerri camping area was an exercise in futility in terms of finding birds but refreshing none the less. I can't recall the last time I went for a walk in the rain. The rain seemed to have set in and we sploshed along a muddy track with the rain drumming on our umbrellas making it difficult to hear any birds. We saw a bedraggled Laughing Kookaburra and heard White-cheeked Honeyeaters.
Casual but Familiar; the Backs of Gordon and Alan
After crossing the ferry we had lunch on a verandah just as the rain stopped and the sun came out. Blue-faced Honeyeaters wanted some of the action and sat on the railing behind our heads. Gordon spotted white ducks nearby which proved to be the pair of Radjah Shelducks more than one thousand kilometres south of their normal range. One was particularly tame and one wonders how they got here.
One the road to Bulahdelah we stopped to look at a field full of Straw-necked Ibis, White-faced and White-necked Herons plus a Pheasant Coucal surprised us by flying up in to the top of a tall gum. Heading back to Sydney we stopped in at Minmi Swamp and found Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels. The last bird of the trip proved to be a stunning Grey Goshawk sitting in trees on the outskirts of Minmi. We had time to set up the scope and we all had good views of this impressive bird.
We finished the weekend with 106 species, which was very good considering the weather was somewhat against us.
by Andrew Patrick guiding for FTB